Daredevil granny’s Spitfire challenge raises thousands

Jean O’ Sullivan and pilot Don Sigournay.

Jean O’ Sullivan and pilot Don Sigournay.

Jean O’ Sullivan

A daredevil grandmother has raised over £2,000 for a charity that supports her youngest daughter who has a brain tumour.

Jean O’ Sullivan with her family and friends after her flight.Jean O’ Sullivan with her family and friends after her flight.

Potters Bar resident Jean O’ Sullivan, 71, fulfilled a life-long ambition when she took to the skies in a Spitfire at RAF Biggin Hill on Saturday, September 23, to raise money for The National Brain Appeal.

So far she has raised £2,150 for The National Brain Appeal, a charity very close to her heart, and she hopes to raise £3,000 in total.

Jean’s youngest daughter Julieanne, 45, has a brain tumour, for which she had surgery in 2013, and a rare neurological condition that will require regular treatment for the rest of her life.

The National Brain Appeal raises vital funds for The National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery, where Julieanne’s surgery and ongoing treatment takes place.

Jean O’ Sullivan and pilot Don Sigournay.Jean O’ Sullivan and pilot Don Sigournay.

Neurosurgeons managed to remove most of Julieanne’s tumour and the remainder is monitored with annual brain scans.

She also has monthly injections to help manage the effects of the acromegaly on her body, a rare condition that causes the body to produce too much growth hormone.

The grandmother of six said: “The pilot told me that this very aircraft was involved in combat during the Second World War.

“When I sat in the cockpit I felt very emotional thinking about what the young airmen would have faced during the war.”

Jean, who had to undergo a safety briefing and wore a boiler suit, took over the controls with pilot Don Sigournay by her side to guide her.

The mother of three added: “It is such a powerful aircraft. When I was turning to the right and to the left you could feel the plane tilt and I was worried we might tip over.

“It was a truly amazing experience. Julieanne is very unwell which as a mother is so upsetting and makes me feel so helpless.

“Raising money for the charity that supports the hospital where my daughter is being treated has given me something positive to focus on.

“I’m so grateful to everyone who has donated money.”

The widow, having lost her husband Patrick to cancer in 1996, has been a formidable and dedicated fundraiser for over 50 years, with parachute jumping, wing walking, parascending and tackling army assault courses.

To support Jean, the ‘flying grandma’, visit https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/flying-grandma

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